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BREAKING: 2nd Trump-Biden debate to be virtual; Trump refuses, Biden agrees

By Tim Darnell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution #local-all (CNT)

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that next week’s second debate between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden will be held remotely.

The commission’s decision, which reportedly was made without consulting either campaign, was immediately denounced by Trump, who told Fox News he would not participate.

Biden’s campaign signaled they would agree to the change.

Trump said the decision to hold the debate was taken “to protect” Biden.

According to the commission, the debate’s format will remain that of a town hall, with moderator Steve Scully of C-SPAN and participants at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami.

The debate was set for Thursday, Oct. 15.

The commission reportedly made the decision without consulting either presidential campaign, and Trump told Fox News after the announcement that he would not take part in the debate.

The nonpartisan commission cited a need “to protect the health and safety of all involved with the second presidential debate.” 

In a Tuesday tweet, Trump said he looked forward to debating Biden on stage in Miami, “It will be great!” he tweeted.

Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.

Biden told reporters in Pennsylvania that he was “looking forward to being able to debate him” but said “we’re going to have to follow very strict guidelines.”

The decision comes as Trump continues recovering from his own bout of the highly contagious coronavirus. Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center from Friday through Sunday of last week, and returned to the White House early Monday evening.

More than a dozen White House and Pentagon officials are also infected, forcing even more into quarantine.

Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, with staff wearing gowns, gloves, eyewear and protective masks.

On Wednesday night, Vice President Mike Pence and Calif. Sen. Kamala Harris traded barbs through plexiglass shields in the one and only vice presidential debate. 

Both candidates were seated just over 12 feet apart, yet another coronavirus in an election that has become increasingly dominated by the pandemic. 

The VP debate quickly became a dissection of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Harris labeling it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration.”

Pence, who leads the president’s coronavirus task force, acknowledged Wednesday night “our nation’s gone through a very challenging time this year,” yet vigorously defended the administration’s overall response to a pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 Americans.

If Trump-Biden II actually happens, it would not be the first debate in which the candidates are not in the same room. In 1960, the third presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy was broadcast with the two candidates on opposite coasts.